Traveling with Kids | Washington DC
photography by Dave Cooper
Hey all, Jen here. I’m hijacking Jillian’s column this week with a column about things to see/eat/do in Washington DC. I’ve asked three of my DC friends—Ania, Clare and Anabel—to give us a tour of the District. They know the District best and I love the idea of getting the inside scoop you won’t find in a guidebook.
The National Zoo is designed for families so you’ll see lots of strollers and things for the kids. Couple tips: It’s hilly, so wear good walking shoes and while admission is free, parking can be pricey.
-When days are long and hot, and the evenings are pleasantly warm, have dinner and then walk through the zoo to say goodnight to animals. The zoo closes at 8 so if you get there about 7:30, you have plenty of time to stroll around, without many tourists and enjoy the relief of the cool evening air. And if the kids need a bath they will LOVE soaking themselves in the misters that are position every 75 feet or so. It’s a great way to wind down the day, especially during the hot DC summer.
Georgetown Waterfront Park
Water St NW Georgetown, DC 20007
This isn’t your typical tourist destination. The waterfront walk extends all through Georgetown and offers scenic views of the Kennedy Center, Key Bridge and rowing crews. During the summer, kids can run through a fountain that shoots jets of water in an arc, forming a giant tunnel. How cool is that? There’s also a labyrinth to walk or scooter around. It’s a nice bit of zen.
-Take the Circulator to 31st and M and have the kids bring their scooters.
-It’s a fantastic place to watch the planes and Marine One come in.
-Grab a Chocolate Marshmallow Cupcake cupcake from Sprinkles on your way.
When people think of DC, they think of the museums along the National Mall. They’re all free and have an incredible array of exhibits. Honestly, you could spend a whole week checking out all the exhibits. Only have a day or two? Hit these favorites: Natural History open 10am to 5:30pm, American History open 10am to 5:30pm, Air and Space open 10am to 5:30pm.
Just a heads up, parking is a pain. Here is a source for garages in the area. There are also metro stops nearby. I avoid the Smithsonian stop because it’s always chaotic. I think it’s easier to get off at Federal Triangle and walk.
-In the summer the Air and Space Museum is open until 7:30 so you can save it for last.
3315 M St. NW Washington, DC 20007
Sun-Tues 8am to 10pm, Wed 8am to 11pm, Thurs-Sat 8am to 12am
Located in Georgetown’s Cady’s Alley, Kafe Leopold feels like you’re stepping into Europe. You can eat in the lovely courtyard—the kids will love the fountain. Or you can opt to sit inside which is super modern and Euro. The pastry case alone is reason enough to walk in. And bonus: there’s a Flor showroom right around the corner so you can check out all the new styles.
-After we moved back from Vienna, we nursed all of our homesickness here on Meinl Coffee and schnitzel, but you can’t go wrong with the menu here at all. The daily quiche is a regular pick as are the Lemon Ricotta pancakes. Be sure to order croissants as they are some of the best in town and save room for dessert. The Fraisier or Black Forest Cake are favorites.
Bistro Du Coin
1738 Connecticut Avenue NW Washington, DC 20009
Mon-Wed 11am to 11 pm, Thurs-Sat 11am to 1 am, Sun 11 am to 11 pm
Walk into the Bistro Du Coin and you’ll immediately notice the high Ceilings, huge wooden bar, black and white tiled floor, and lots and lots of red-checkered table cloths. It’s noisy, meaning no one will notice your kids if they’re noisy too. Score. There’s a foosball table upstairs for the kids to play after dinner.
-They have the best Steak Frites around.
1216 18th Street NW
Sun-Thurs 11am to 11pm, Fri-Sat 11am to 2am
Have a hankerin’ for a burger? Or looking for something a bit more budget friendly? Head over to Shake Shake in Dupont Circle.
-Make sure you check out the red velvet ice cream. Yum!
Old Stone House
3051 M Street NW DC
House open Mon-Sun 12pm to 5pm, Garden open during daylight hours
Sitting right on M street (the main street that runs through Georgetown) sits the oldest unchanged house in DC.
-This is the oldest home structure in the DC area, yet most people whiz by it on M Street as they go about their shopping. It has a beautiful garden set behind it, and no matter how busy Georgetown is, not very many people stop there. It’s nice to pick up a drink or dessert (canneles and coffee from Paul on M and Wisconsin are favorites of ours) and enjoy them in the garden. It’s a great place to sit down while the kids play and it’s a great place to snap a family photo too.
Playground at Beauvoir School
3500 Woodley Road, NW DC 20016
My friends told me they heard through the grapevine that there was an incredible playground behind the National Cathedral. I did some research and discovered it’s a private elementary school’s playground, but you can visit it when school’s not in session. I can not express to you how awesome this playground is. There is a zip line, massive tree house, cave and the fastest slide I’d seen at a playground. Not to mention the musical instruments (chimes and a large xylophone) and turf field. It’s wildly impressive. My kids didn’t want to leave. If you happen to be in the area, you have to check it out.
-We parked on the street and walked up the hill to the school. The entrance to the playground is to the left of the school.
Hillwood Museum & Gardens
4155 Linnean Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20008
Tue-Sat 10am to 5pm
suggested donation $15
Hillwood served as one of the many homes of Post Cereal/General Mills heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. When she died, she requested Hillwood be turned into a museum. And it is stunning! If you’re looking for a Downton Abbey fix here in the US, head over. Gorgeous.
The exhibits include extraordinary historical and artistic items from the Czars of Russia and Russian culture, including two Imperial Faberge Eggs. The tea shop and gardens are beautiful. When the orchids in the greenhouse are in bloom, it is stunning. A great place to visit in spring/summer.
Many, many, many thanks to Ania, voice of The New Diplomat’s Wife; Clare professor and designer behind the First Ladies and Food exhibits at the American History Museum; and Anabel designer of the whimsical and beautiful Fouriner line.
And don’t forget to check out our family field trip to the White House. It’s another great place for the kids to scooter/run around.